Simon Sebag Montefiore
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Based on ten years' astonishing new research, here is the thrilling story of how a charismatic, dangerous boy became a student priest, romantic poet, gangster mastermind, prolific lover, murderous revolutionary, and the merciless politician who shaped the Soviet Empire in his own brutal image: How Stalin became Stalin.
the nearest street, where he boarded a tram (to confuse search dogs) before making the rendezvous with the Mauserists. One night, recalls Sashiko Svanidze, while police combed the city and the press sensationalized the escape, “Comrade Budu Mdivani came and told Misha [Monoselidze, her husband] that they’d sprung Kamo from the Mental Hospital the night before . . . They brought Kamo, who stayed for a month at our place.” Sashiko, Stalin’s son and her own children were then staying in the
would save me from poverty soon,” recalls his mother, the first of a lifetime of dutiful but distant letters from her beloved son. “When he sent me letters, I pressed them to my heart, slept with them and kissed them.” “Everyone at the school congratulated me,” adds Keke, “but only Simon Gogchilidze looked wistful: ‘The School seems somehow deserted,’ he said.* ‘Who’ll sing in the choir now?’”6 * The singing teacher was not the only master who helped Stalin. Davitashvili’s older cousin Zakhary
1899, the journal simply noted, “Expelled . . . for non-appearance at examinations.” As always with Stalin, things were not quite so simple.3 · · · “I was expelled for Marxist propaganda,” Stalin boasted mendaciously later, but the Black Spot may have been investigating something spicier than just horseplay in the chapel or even Marxist meetings in the town. The boys with more pocket-money than Stalin used to hire rooms on Holy Mountain, purportedly to hold meetings of their liberal reading
Armenian oil baron was besieged in his palace by an Azeri mob, whom he picked off with a Winchester rifle until he ran out of ammunition and was torn to pieces. Eventually, the Armenians, wealthier and better armed, started to fight back and massacre Azeris. “They don’t even know why they’re killing each other,” said the mayor. “Thousands of dead lay in the streets,” wrote a witness of the Baku slaughters, “and covered the Christian and Mussulman cemeteries. The odour of corpses stifled us.
Tiflis, terrorism at the railway depot, and another bloodbath in Baku. The count could scarcely square his liberal instincts with the brutal reality as his generals and Cossacks launched murderous raids on radicals in Tiflis. He was soon faced with open warfare, wild terrorism and a rash of industrial action. “In 1905,” writes one historian, “everyone from palm-readers to prostitutes went on strike.”12 On 9 June, Sasha Tsulukidze, Stalin’s beloved Red Prince, died of tuberculosis. The funeral